Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ch. 16 - A Whirlwind Week

A lot has happened since my last posting a week ago. It would be foolish to try and condense it in a witty narrative. Instead, I'll write them as easy bullet points:

- My work-issued laptop died. It was its time to go. Besides, I might get lucky and get issued a nicer, newer, faster one when I get back to Alexandria.
-Exhaustion is finally setting in. I will now happily embrace a multi-day recovery period when I get back home.
-It's been rainy for the past 2 days, and it's really put a--wait for it--damper on our outdoor activities.
-The "Russian Mafia" left camp, except for Vladestruction. Some of them were sweet, but they were all spoiled. Oh, well.
-I tore Vladarth Vader a new one yesterday for getting my bookbag wet on purpose. A fat lot of good it'll do in the long run, but I think he'll stop and reconsider his actions before trying to mess with me again.
-I talked with a camp counselor from a neighboring organization on the beach two days ago. She seemed really happy with her job. I felt insanely jealous.

I have nothing more to write. I'm fairly tired after today's rainy field trip to Venice. I was doing well until I sat down in my seat on the bus. Lights out!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ch. 15 - Beachcombing

Today was my "day off", which roughly translates to "sleeping in until the kids go on a field trip and getting back on the clock when the kids arrive back at dinner time" in English. I used my time wisely by falling asleep on the beach.

During my waking moments, however, I was privy to some of the finer examples of fashion, trends, and other intricacies that Italian (and, perhaps, European in general) beach customs has to offer. Take for example the following sights I witnessed while awake:

1) A tanned, round Kenny Rogers in a Speedo who spoke German.
2) An older woman using cross-country ski poles while strolling along a sandbar (No, she wasn't wearing skis.)
3) Now, ponder these five words: cowboy hat and a Speedo (more on this guy later).
4) A line of kids from a different camp doing the long jump from the sand's edge into the shallow water. It was pretty hard to *not* stick those landings, as one might imagine.
5) Many, many man purses worn by...wait for it...Speedo-clad men.

Back to #3 on the list. Imagine for a moment a cross between Burt Reynolds and a skinny Gary Oldman. Have you got that mashup in your mind yet? Now, put him at around 50 years of age. Then, add several years of recreational tanning. Next, put a black, straw cowboy hat on him and make sure he's wearing a navy blue Speedo.

That was my day. I kid you not. I'm glad--in a way--that I wasn't hallucinating, because I wouldn't have been able to share this little insight and slice of cultural joy with you. Sure, I got a bit too much sun but it was worth it. Besides, I can't unsee what I saw.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ch. 14 - Gelato Time on My Hands?

Gelato is one of those things that I had never sampled before, but now I have a point of reference. Gelato is so impressionable on some people, that it is often what they think about nearly all the time. Case in point: a camper here named Nick included the word "gelato" in his Skype handle. Now *that's* dedication to gelato. His favorite flavor is "Puffo", which is blue and he says tastes like cotton candy.

In Trieste, I sampled a concoction made with Nutella and chocolate chunks. A bus could have hit me after that first taste and it probably wouldn't have bothered me too much. I look forward to sampling more flavors in my remaining time here. I have to admit, a really good cone of gelato lives up to its reputation of being unique and enjoyable. Of course, now the dilemma becomes: where will I be able to get some comparable gelato once I get back home?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ch. 13 - New Nicknames...

...for my favoritest little Russian:

These might be the most appropriate nicknames so far. Ugh.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ch. 12 - It Was Bound to Happen

So...... I bought a man purse. It turned out to be a bit of a necessity, in a roundabout sort of way. Originally, I only wanted to get a wristwatch. That purchase soon gave way to the rationale that a murse was a good idea. The notion to buy a wristwatch came about from the need to deactivate my cell phone; side note: international roaming charges are a complete bear.

As a result, it was deemed necessary to get a murse. It's rather subtle: black ballistic nylon and lots o' zippers. It is *not* a "European Carryall" a la Seinfeld. It is, however, proving to be a useful addition to my wardrobe full of cargo shorts and guayabera shirts. Let's face it: I love pockets. Also, it couldn't hurt for me to get a bit more organized.

Ch. 11 - Waka Waka

My concept of Purgatory has changed a little since working here: I imagine a place of perpetual 90+ degrees Fahrenheit, about 95% humidity, and Shakira's "Waka Waka" on a continuous loop while a cold, 2-liter bottle of water is floating about 8 feet above my head. If you are unfamiliar with Shakira's latest dance hit, check it out here:

I hear it, on average, 6 times a day. Most of the kids around here know the choreography and lyrics. It's like the Macarena, but not as obnoxious.

On the other hand, Shakira is really pretty. And, her hips don't lie.

Ch. 10 - No Humidity? Seriously?

Today is the first day that is actually--in a meteorological sense--pleasant. The classroom doesn't have great ventilation, but it's rather nice outside. As I write this, the kids are taking a language placement test. It's pretty ridiculous, since some of the kids will have taken this test for the 3rd or 4th time. Apparently, the Italian version of this test is full of errors and is in no way an accurate measurement of one's proficiency level. Oh, well. I just work here.

Some of the kids--both veterans and newcomers--and I played Tombola last night. It's basically BINGO, but with a slightly more complicated prize-winning structure. It was a hit with most of the kids who came along. One girl got really into it and asked the head Tombolera (I just made that term up) if they'd be offering it as an activity again later in the week, so I guess she'll be coming back for more.

In other news, I've begun searching for hostels in Florence. Taking a cue from my Dad, I'm anxious to poke around this very famous city after my job here is done. I'll be doing a little homework on the city itself, and I find myself getting more and more excited as each day passes.

Also, tomorrow is my mother's birthday! As usual, I hope everyone is treating her well. Some kids are finishing up their tests, so I'd better get going. Ciao....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ch. 9 - Special Case(s)

There's a "special" child--the Italians might call him pazzo --named Vladimir, who is a small Russian boy who's here to learn more English. (Mostly) Because of his "antics", I have begun compiling a list of nicknames for him:

a) Most staffers refer to him using an Italian diminutive, calling him Vladimirigno.
b) We occasionally call him by his own familiar nickname, "Vova".
c) Sometimes I just call him "scimmia", which is Italian for "monkey".
d) One of the other campers called him "Vladimort", in honor of his resemblance to the Harry Potter villain.
e) I also call him "booger".
f) Since he's small for his age, I also have referred to him as "Vladimini".
g) My personal favorite, though, is "Vlad Pitt", because of his passing resemblance to Brad Pitt.

He is a force to be reckoned with, but I keep telling myself that we're up for the challenge.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ch. 8 - 50% Completed

*insert that sound one makes when the index finger rapidly moves vertically across the lips, producing a 'buddabebuddabebuddabe' sound*

Hi! Sorry, but I digressed there for a moment. Tomorrow (7/14) we'll be going to Trieste. Prior to going there, I'm afraid I'll have to punch my "Ignorant American" card by admitting that I know very little about this city. In fact, my only real point of reference is that it was mentioned in a James Bond film. So... I'll be taking some photos of some historically-significant things and then learning about them later.

Our new guy, Tom, is an interesting fellow. He'd been living in Padova/Padua for two years and got the call from the head office about the vacancy that needed to be filled on short notice. He plays guitar and seems to really enjoy working with kids in a summer camp setting. More on him later; gots to get my beauty rest. Ciao!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ch. 7

Hmmm… Where to begin? OK, since I last had some free time, there have been a few significant occurrences: We went on a field trip to Venice, and one of my fellow staff members was “let go”. So…

I require a bit more time in Venice, I think. Its small vialetos remind me of the back alleys of Madrid and Toledo in Spain, and the knowledge of having so much water around one’s self is both alien and beautiful. Unfortunately, there were many tourists and it was hard to appreciate the city for what it is—historically rich and significant as well as artistically- and culturally unique. So, maybe I’ll hit it up again on my way home…

In the meantime, a bit of drama had been in the works. On Friday, July 09, one of the English teachers was relieved of her position. Since I’m no Dougie Downer, I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say that these kinds of situations are often difficult and awkward, but—in the end—the bottom line is the welfare of the children. The boss has a new guy coming in on Sunday; a young feller from the U.K. Keeping my fingers crossed….

Vid-termission No.1

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Short Photo Break

Here are a couple of shots: the beach, and some campers relaxing.

Ch. 6 – What Does a Typical Day Look Like, You Ask?

Here’s the basic structure of my summer so far:

7:00-7:30am – Wake up/Get up
7:30-8:00am – Wake up the ragamuffins
8:00-8:45am – Breakfast (walk to, eat, walk back) or “Colazione”
9:00-10:15am – English Lesson #1 (with teens)
10:15 – 10:45am – Break
10:45 – 12:00pm – English Lesson #2 (with kids and preteens)
12:00-12:45pm – Lunch, or “Pranzo”
1:00 – 3:45pm – Varied sports or arts activities, (soccer, pool, tennis, crafts, etc…)
4:00 – 5:00pm – Water park break (at the on-site pool complex called “Acquagio”)
5:00 – 7:00pm – Varied sports activities or beach
7:00 – 7:45pm – Dinner
8:00 – 10:00pm – Evening activity (outside movie, disco on the piazza, karaoke)
The teens are able to stay up until around midnight.

So, it’s a pretty long day. But, I get one day off a week, so that’s not such a bad trade-off. Also, I’m learning a good amount of Italian. The English lessons are turning out to be an interesting mix of book practice and the more familiar Second Language Acquisition model that I’m used to.

Each week we’ll have a slightly different group of kids. Some of the kids’ truer personalities are coming out as of late, so we have to be careful; after all, familiarity breeds contempt.

Though it’s not really a vacation, it’s actually fairly relaxing in a bit of a surreal way. Though I haven’t looked through my photos yet, I plan to do so on Sunday.